During 1997-98, many of the East Asian tiger economies suffered a severe finanical and economic crisis. This had big consequences for the global financial markets, which had become increasingly exposed to the promise that Asia had seemed to offer.
The crisis destroyed wealth on a massive scale and sent absolute poverty shooting up. In the banking system alone, corporate loans equivalent to around half of one year's GDP went bad - a destruction of savings on a scale more usually associated with a full-scale war.
The precise cause of the crisis remains a matter of debate. Fingers have been pointed at the currency peg adopted by some countries, and a reduction of capital controls in the years before the crisis. Some blamed economic contagion. The crisis brought an end to a then widespread belief that there was a distinct "Asian way" of capitalism that might prove just as successful as capitalism in America or Europe.
Instead, critics turned their fire on Asian cronyism, ill-disciplined banking and lack of transparency. In the years following the crisis, most of the countries involved have introduced reforms designed to increase transparency and improve the health of the banking system, although some (such as South Korea) went much further than others (such as Indonesia).
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